While nations around the globe have been caving to austerity measures and cutting funding to all but the most practical science, China has been dumping money into highly theoretical projects. Now, China is stating that it wants to build world’s largest supercollider, one that is even larger and more powerful than the massive Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
According to a report by The Guardian on Oct 29, the Chinese facility is intended to increase our understanding of the Higgs boson, also called the “God particle.” The process of discovering and learning more about the Higgs boson fundamentally involves smashing subatomic particles together at extremely high speeds. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, first discovered and demonstrated the existence of the Higgs boson in 2012. If the Chinese supercollider works as planned, it will generate millions of Higgs boson particles, vastly more than the number produced by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.
The reason scientists are fascinated, if not obsessed, with the Higgs boson is that it can potentially complete what is called the Standard Model of physics. Currently, the Standard Model explains three forces of the four forces of nature: electromagnetism, weak force, and the strong force, but it cannot explain gravity. Scientists believe that the Higgs boson is a particle that endows other things with mass. With further study, researchers are hoping to use the Higgs to help complete their understanding of the Standard Model.
The Chinese scientists are worried that the LHC is going to be less and less useful in researching the Higgs boson. “[The] LHC is hitting its limits of energy level,” Wang Yifang, director of the Institute of High Energy Physics at the China Academy of Sciences told China Daily. “It seems not possible to escalate the energy dramatically at the existing facility.” Currently, China is expecting to be through the planning phase for their supercollider by 2016, and is hoping to start working on the machine by 2020.
However, not everyone believes that the LHC is going to become useless in researching the Higgs boson. CERN pointed out that a major upgrade to their facility was slated for 2025. The group hopes for a tenfold increase in the “luminosity” of the machine, which is a fancy word for the rate at which the LHC can create particle collisions. “The LHC already delivers proton collisions at the highest energy ever,” said CERN chief Rolf Heuer in a statement.
With the upgrade, CERN is expecting to move from generating 1.2 million Higgs boson particles a year to 15 million. “The High-Luminosity LHC will produce collisions 10 times more rapidly, increasing our discovery potential and transforming the LHC into a machine for precision studies: the natural next step for the high-energy frontier,” said Heuer.
Particle physics isn’t the only science arena that China is bidding to enter. The Chinese government recently announced a plan to explore the ‘dark side of the moon’. But China is also hoping to make their projects international. “This is a machine for the world and by the world: not a Chinese one,” said Wang.